Neither does the cease-fire alternative offer much hope for what ails the West: namely, Gaddafi’s early departure. The African Union recently tabled such a proposal, and NATO leaders have demurred for fear of sending a message of weakness to Gaddafi. But some National Security Council and State Department officials are trying, correctly, to forge a strategy including a cease-fire. It contains these elements: a strengthened truce to include a pullback of Gaddafi forces to bases, allowing humanitarian aid, etc.; better organizing of the rebels politically, providing arms to checked-out rebels, boycotting Libyan oil, continuing to freeze Gaddafi assets, and attempting covert deals with Gaddafi supporters to overthrow him. Gaddafi probably will reject a toughened cease-fire because it makes it easier for the West to build up the rebels. But it’s worth trying anyway. At least it dims the spotlight on inconclusive air attacks and might split Gaddafi from his African friends.

All of which is to say that barring a stroke of luck, the West is up the creek without a paddle—and can’t stop paddling. There are no promising solutions. Best under such circumstances to maintain military operations at about current levels rather than do more and still fail. Best to let Paris and London complain about NATO (read the U.S.) not doing enough and leave the brunt of the fighting to them. After all, they were the prime advocates of military intervention.